Friday, December 29, 2006
Here's the kicker -- a person with this condition usually functions normally! It's kind of crazy. So basically, the portions of the body that are not normally mirrored about the body's center are all transposed, but the body goes about its business anyway. It doesn't know any different. I wonder, would a right-handed person with situs inversus actually originally be left-handed?
The reason I discovered this condition is because it turns out that Minnesota Timberwolves rookie, Randy Foye, has the condition. How unbelievable is the human body that in an instance when everything internally is backwards from the way it's supposed to be, an individual can still perform at the highest level possible athletically?
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
As the year ends, many year-end statistics, sometimes from the year prior, are becoming available and this one speaks for itself:
[In 2005] 122,725 babies were born in New York City..
The number of reported abortions in the city was ... 88,891 in 2005.
What more can be said? What more could the future of New York City offer with the added influx of human capital provided by nearly 100,000 more residents each year?
By way of comparison, since the war in Iraq began, 2,979 American soldiers and up to 57,368 Iraqis have been killed. These lives lost are just as frustrating and worthwhile as those lost here in the States, but the numbers themselves do pale compared to the grim statistics reported above.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Some have pointed out that in light of fighting in other sports like baseball and hockey, where reactions are much more muted, this punishment was too severe.
Might the hubbub even be racist? Bill Simmons points out in his chat on the topic,
Chris, Seattle: The fact that everyone makes such a big deal about an NBA brawl and not so much about a MLB brawl smacks of racism, I don't care what people say.Do we hold a double standard when it comes to black athletes fighting?
Bill Simmons: Couldn't agree more. Everyone involved in this fight was black, so the players are now "out of control" and the whole thing is "a disgrace." But when a white baseball player charges a white pitcher, it's all in good fun. It's a little weird.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Did you know, for instance, that,
Environmental trends for Western Europe are also almost entirely positive, though Europe trails America in most categories of improvement. Despite the common perception that Europe is environmentally advanced compared to the United States, U.S. environmental rules are stricter than European Union rules--Paris has worse smog than Houston [who are the worst in the U.S.], for example, and the Mississippi is far cleaner than the Marne. Generally, Europe lags about ten years behind the United States in ecological cleanup...Surprised?
Monday, December 11, 2006
On the heels of a redesign to the proposed Chicago Spire (I prefer the original), it is worth looking at the state of the world's skyscrapers.
As luck would have it, Wired has done a great job of running it down for us:
The world's cities are getting taller – and fast. Between 2001 and 2012, almost as many skyscrapers will be constructed as were built in the entire 20th century. While vertical metropolises like Hong Kong and New York continue to mint monoliths, the most dramatic changes are happening in lower-profile places. Thanks to globalization and the steady migration of people to urban cores, cities that once had only a few high-rises are morphing into mini-Manhattans. Miami, for example, had only five skyscrapers (buildings more than 150 meters, or 492 feet, tall) in 1999 but will have 71 by 2012. Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, will soar from two in 1999 to 90 by 2012. Here's a snapshot of the world's fastest-changing skylines...Be sure to check out the pictures showing what will be a progression of world's tallest buildings until 2012.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Without any further ado, here's a look at some of the articles I've been reading online this past week:
What It Takes to Make a Student
Three Things You Don't Know About Aids in Africa
Worth a look-see:
A Free-for-All on Science and Religion
The Leastern Conference
The God Who Lives and Works and Plays in Russia
A man who hated government
The Gospel According to Jim Wallis
Peculiar and interesting:
A Russian skyscraper plan
The last cargo cult
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
This film took 606 takes. On the first 605 takes, something, usually very minor, didn't work and they would then have to set the whole thing up again. The crew spent weeks shooting night and day. It took three months to complete and cost six million dollars. Everything you see in the film (aside from the walls, floor, ramp, and complete Honda Accord) is parts from two disassembled Honda Accords.
When the ad was shown to Honda executives, they liked it and commented on how amazing computer graphics have gotten. They were surprised when they found out it was for real.
In 2003, Fischli and Weiss threatened legal action against Honda.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
In France, the country that evokes more images of romance than perhaps any other, marriage has increasingly fallen out of favor.As noted, many couples are instead opting for civil partnerships or no formal arrangements at all, while still raising children and functioning as a household.
Growing numbers of couples are choosing to raise children, buy homes and build family lives without religious or civil approval of their partnerships. In the past generation, the French marriage rate has plunged more than 30 percent, even as population and birthrates have been rising.
"Marriage doesn't have the same importance as it used to," said France Prioux, who directs research on changing social trends for France's National Institute of Demographic Studies. "It will never become as frequent as it once was."
Marriage is in decline across much of northern Europe, from Scandinavia to France, a pattern some sociologists describe as a "soft revolution" in European society--a generational shift away from Old World traditions and institutions toward a greater emphasis on personal independence.
But French couples are abandoning the formality of marriage faster than most of their European neighbors and far more rapidly than their American counterparts: French marriage rates are 45 percent below U.S. figures.
The increase in out-of-wedlock birthrates is even more dramatic: Last year, 59 percent of all first-born French children were born to unwed parents, most by choice, not chance. The numbers were not driven by single mothers, teenage mothers or poor mothers but by couples from all social and economic backgrounds who chose parenthood in the absence of marriage vows.The question is, what ramifications for society does this trend hold?
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
While it can continue to be debated whether liberal, moderate, or conservative political policies are more 'compassionate' or effective in pursuing social justice, now we are able to see which type of person is more generous.
Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University whose work involves public policy and philanthropy, has written a new book called Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide: Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. His boldface conclusion? As summarized in this interesting article, Brooks found that “religious conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts of charitable activities, irrespective of income.”
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Astronomers have for awhile now known that there is the potential for an asteroid to collide with Earth and wreak havoc on our planet. They know it has happened before. Now, a smallish asteroid called Apophis has been identified as a possible threat to Earth in 2036. While it likely will miss Earth, further refinements to the modeling being done are necessary to determine for sure.
This is where science fiction meets science, however.
[NASA] is drawing up plans to land an astronaut on an asteroid hurtling through space at more than 30,000 mph. It wants to know whether humans could master techniques needed to deflect such a doomsday object when it is eventually identified. The proposals are at an early stage, and a spacecraft needed just to send an astronaut that far into space exists only on the drawing board, but they are deadly serious.Bruce Willis, are you available?
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
Still though, it begs the question, where do all these people live? Now we can see:
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Being a single-issue [voter] does not mean that only one issue matters. It means that some issues may matter enough to [disqualify someone].For him, being a one issue voter is not an issue. And so it is in my political views. As we watch returns come in on this election eve, I thought it was worth reflecting on my own political viewpoints.
There is no doubt that one issue is by far most important to me when it comes to my personal political position. Abortion. Since 1973, when Roe vs. Wade was decided in our country, 47,282,923 abortions have occurred. Currently, approximately 1.3 million lives are ended via abortion each year in our country. Any issue that costs lives is extremely important. However, when it's an issue that literally is costing millions and millions of lives, it is of utmost vital importance. Can you imagine our country with almost 50 million more children over the last three decades filled with the potential to do great things?
Globally, it is estimated that 1,225,000 abortions occur each month. In about the last 75 years, it is estimated that 945,000,000 total abortions have occurred globally. So in less than four years, we will have reached the point when more than a BILLION babies have been killed on our planet. No other issue comes even close to affecting the same number of lives. It is the genocide of our age, and ending it is the single most important issue facing us today.
With that understood, it is difficult to cast a ballot for any candidate who does not endorse ending this travesty in our country no matter the other issues. This one issue is my litmus test. That being said, I am not beholden to any one party or ignoring other issues. If good candidates who are pro-life run, I will seriously consider their credentials. I cannot in good faith consider pro-abortion candidates in the same way.
It is, therefore, pretty straightforward for me. I, being pro-life, look at the candidates before me and vote for the pro-life candidate. If they both are pro-life, other very important issues such as global poverty and hunger, fair wages, Third World corruption, Darfur, earthly stewardship, and fiscal responsibility must be examined. But for this era, so long as pro-abortion policies continue, I will remain a single-issue voter.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
This coming summer, the longtime host of The Price Is Right, Bob Barker, is retiring. He has hosted the show since September 4, 1972, making it the longest-running daytime game show in television history.
Will the show seem the same without Bob?
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The alarming rise in autism rates in the U.S. and some other developed nations is one of the most anguishing mysteries of modern medicine — and the source of much desperate speculation by parents. In 1970, its incidence was thought to be just 1 in 2,500; today about 1 in 170 kids born in the U.S. fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.The problem is, nobody can say for sure what has caused that increase. Some say that it is the mercury-based preservative in vaccines and others say it has only increased due to broader definitions and better detection, not actual incidence.
Now, however, a study has been released that seems to show a correlation between TV watching prior to age 3 and autism. Causation seems to be a little trickier to nail down, but the study is certainly intriguing. The hypothesis does seem to make sense. Gregg Easterbrook pondered approximately a month ago (prior to the study's release),
The autism rise began around 1980, about the same time cable television and VCRs became common, allowing children to watch television aimed at them any time. Since the brain is organizing during the first years of life and since human beings evolved responding to three-dimensional stimuli, I wondered if exposing toddlers to lots of colorful two-dimensional stimulation could be harmful to brain development.Now, he notes,
Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching...The Cornell study represents a potential bombshell in the autism debate.Needless to say, not all reaction to the study has been positive. Further research will tell whether a new piece of evidence has indeed been found in puzzling together the mystery of autism.
But could our proclivity to babysit via video be damaging our children? It is worth wondering.
Monday, October 23, 2006
As it turns out, the study shows that tree cover is linked to lower temps, which makes sense. Those areas with the fewest trees and vegetation also were the most likely to exhibit the 'heat island' effect. The treeless (and hotter) areas were mapped and identified.
Using this, the planners are able to plan tree planting and development of vegetation-covered 'green roofs,' hopefully alleviating some of the heat in these neighborhoods. Pretty cool, I thought.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
He just slipped. Luckily for him, he slipped...forward. The finish line is right at the beginning of the mat, and he ended up sliding right across it. ... There is no doubt about it; he's the winner.Undoubtedly feeling somewhat better because he is the winner, Cheruiyot is recovering overnight at a local hospital after suffering some external and internal bleeding in his head.
How ironic that he had just successfully won a 26.2 mile race only to be felled by the finish line.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
A mother or a motherland?Is it okay for any person wealthy enough to adopt to do so? The alternative often is very bleak.
What a choice to make: a heritage or a home. African orphans need and want parents. Well-known White Americans -- Angelina Jolie and Madonna -- are looking to adopt. But the way those celebrities are adding to their families raises an interesting question: Is it OK for white families to raise African children? And if it is, at what cost to those orphans' identities?
Personally, I think that a good home for all these children is the hope. Unfortunately, when celebrities begin doing this for their own publicity or to make themselves feel better, I'm not sure it's best.
Adoption is one of the most vital things a stable family can offer to the world. Kids the world over need loving homes, and at the very least, if Ms. Jolie and Madonna have inspired some such families to action, that is a good thing.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Founded in February 2005, this week it was purchased by Google. For $1.65 billion. Yeah, that's a lot. So it seems that my former classmates are now amongst the wealthiest people in the world my age. Wow.
As it turns out, Jawed, who attended high school in Minnesota, lived across the hall in the dorms from another one of my former classmates, who is now one of my co-workers, at Allan Hall. He and Steve, who graduated from high school in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, both initially didn't finish school as they went to work with Illinois alum Max Levchin at the company he co-founded, Paypal. During that time, Jawed continued coursework and got his B.S. and so he's a fellow U of I alum. He currently is a grad student at Stanford and of course now has a little more cash.
What this points to of course is the quality of students Illinois is attracting, especially in engineering. When you look at the list of accomplished alumni, it truly is amazing. The University of Illinois continues to prove itself as one of the premier universities in the country. Just in the last 15 years alone, graduates have included the founders of Netscape, Paypal, and YouTube. Other famous companies formed by Illinois alums include Oracle, AMD, Lotus, W.W. Grainger, and BET. Jerry Colangelo, Roger Ebert, and Jack Welch are all alums.
Its history seems to suggest it is as likely as any place in the country to produce future millionaires. I probably won't be one of them, however.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
It's an excerpt from the new book called The Blind Side by Michael Lewis (yes, of Moneyball fame). To me, it was fascinating because it reminded me of how many people similar to Michael Oher who maybe don't make it. What do you think as you read the article? Has anyone read the book yet? Malcom Gladwell has his review here.
Now news comes that it's being made into a movie. Before that comes out, you had better make sure you read the book.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
A great example is education and its systemic effects can be seen right here in Chicagoland. Take for instance the college success rate of students from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, versus public schools in the Chicago Public School system. Fascinatingly, it is as hard to fail at New Trier as it is to succeed in the Chicago Public Schools. At New Trier, approximately 95% of students go on to a four-year bachelor program. Another 3% go to two-year colleges. (see New Trier Profile). Contrastingly, at the Chicago Public Schools, only 6% of students (only 3% for African-Americans and Latinos) will go on to earn a college bachelor’s degree by the age of 25. (see Chicago Tribune). 27% of Chicago Public School students will go to a four-year college, but the majority of them will fail.The need for a tax swap such that schools are funded via sales or income tax evenly distributed across the state rather than property tax by district is overwhelming. I cannot understand why this initiative has continued to fail to gain momentum.
Could it be that the continuing achievement gaps and especially the expanding plight of the young African-American male are largely linked to inequitable funding? Or are other factors the root cause?
Monday, October 02, 2006
For the first time in major league history, a team won their division and only led it one day all year--the last. What a comeback by the Twins.
This will be the third year in the last four that the Twins are in the playoffs, and my hope is this will be the furthest they go. Let's make it two years in a row the AL Central is home to the World Series champions. Much credit is due the Twins management in keeping their current run going. GM Terry Ryan is the best in the business. The NYT had a great piece this weekend detailing some of his success. They cite Mr. Ryan as the brains behind what (especially compared to the Yankees) is a low-budget success.
Congratulations Minnesota Twins. And good luck.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Back before the 1990 Major League Baseball season began, I was just a kid (10 years) and, for whatever reason, decided that when it came to being a fan of the Reds, I was going to finally go all out. Previously, I had been a casual fan. Sure, I always got mild amusement anytime I saw the Reds' mascot on the front page of the Dayton Daily News with either a smile (they won) or frown (they lost), but now it was time for me to really get on board. Anyone could pay attention for some of the time. I was going to be one of the few, the proud, who paid attention all of the time.
As the season began, I didn't have incredibly high hopes for sticking to my plan. I knew it would be tough. After all, I had never done this before. But I also knew it was worth a shot. It would take discipline, desire, and dedication. Only the strong would survive.
The Reds burst out of the gates and won their first nine games, and my favorite player, Barry Larkin, was batting 14 for 21 (.667). Amazingly enough, the Reds were making my "job" easy. In fact, many of my days began with me getting the newspaper at 5am, looking at the little box in the upper right hand corner of the front page with the Reds score, and then flipping to the Sports page where I would stay for easily half an hour. Many nights I would get to catch part of the Reds game on TV, and when I went to bed I'd be listening to Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennaman call the game on radio. Whenever the Reds would clinch a victory, Brennaman would exclaim, "And this one belongs to the Reds!" After all the post-game coverage and interviews were completed (oftentimes late at night when I probably should have been asleep), Joe Nuxhall would sign off by saying that he was, "Rounding third and heading home."
I mentioned earlier that Larkin was my favorite player, and I had a baseball card of his hanging in my room during that season. Although, in truth, I was a huge fan of the entire team. As I reflect back on that season, my hopes were in the Reds. They were the primary reason I was excited to get up in the morning. When they were on a roll, so was I; and when they slumped, well, life just wasn't as fun for me. (I'm not the first 10-year old in the history of the world to idolize a baseball team.)
But this past July, amongst all the dust and memories of my baseball card collection, I found another baseball card of note. In fact, it was the only other card I had hanging in my room during that 1990 season.
Pete Rose was and is a living legend in Ohio. From the time I first began learning about baseball, I heard stories of Pete Rose and how he was the "All-time Hits King" and played for the "Big Red Machine." When I went to my first Reds game at the age of 6 or 7, I remember my dad pointing out Pete Rose (at that time the manager) as he walked to the mound to make a pitching change.
When Rose's betting scandal made news in 1989, I didn't know what to think. I was just a kid and while I didn't want Rose to be guilty, I knew that didn't mean he was necessarily innocent. From all the evidence I had heard in the media and from family members, it didn't sound good.
Across from Pete Rose, on the other side of the whole gambling mess was the baseball commissioner, Bart Giamatti. His job was to protect the integrity of the game and, ultimately, decide if Rose should be banned from the Hall of Fame. In many circles in Ohio (and nationally), Giamatti was unpopular. As you can imagine, Giamatti was in the press all the time--and it was probably very stressful for him.
In September 1989, with the days of summer becoming shorter, the baseball season winding down, and only eight days after banning Pete Rose from baseball, Bart Giamatti died of a heart attack.
As I thought back on it, I was a little surprised that I had hung Giamatti's card in my room. Although, I do think part of the reason I did it was to remind myself about what's important in life. Even though there was a time or two when I remember wanting to take Giamatti's card down (and possibly replace him with a Reds player), he stayed up the whole season. It was the least I could do.
I don't really have favorite sports teams anymore. Sure, I have my geographical or sentimental preferences, but not the way I used to. Instead, I'm a fan of the game. Whether it's baseball, football, basketball, whatever... I just have an appreciation for the beauty of sport. With baseball, this is especially true. My appreciation for the game is much deeper than back in 1990 when all I cared about was whether my morning paper would have a smiling or frowning Reds baseball face.
Since 1990, the Reds have yet to return to the World Series. In fact, more time separates this season from their last World Series win than separated 1990 and the Big Red Machine glory days. Time sure does fly.
Just a few short months ago in July, I turned over that Bart Giamatti baseball card and read the back of it. I had completely forgotten what was there, and I nearly blogged about it that very day. But something told me to wait. As in baseball, many things in life require patience and waiting for the right moment. Sure, you need to practice, be disciplined and aggressive, but when you get tossed a changeup, you better wait a little if you want to make good contact. Sometimes you have to let the game come to you.
As it turns out, the back of Giamatti's card had an excerpt from his book, "The Green Fields Of The Mind." Even though his words were simple, his death brings this book passage even more to life. Here is the excerpt, which struck me as poetic, if not prophetic:
"It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it goes... And summer is gone."
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Obviously, the article is likely in response to the capture of FBI Most Wanted criminal, and notorious polygamist, Warren Jeffs.
The interesting thing in the article is that practicioners of this form of Mormonism do not hide the fact that they are pushing for legalization.
It's families like these [abuse-filled] that polygamy advocates hold up when they make their most frequent argument: decriminalization. They say that if the fear of prosecution is removed, polygamous groups could stop living in seclusion and secrecy, the very conditions that often enable many of the alleged abuses. Even more, they would then feel less fear about going to authorities to turn in abusers within their ranks.I find it hard to believe this will ever be the case, but I guess the slope is slippery.
'It would be all about going after the crimes, not the culture,' said Anne Wilde, a former plural wife who now is widowed and the co-director of Principle Voices, a pro-polygamy group.
If you are interested in reading more about the fundamentalist Mormon culture, I highly recommend Jon Krakeuer's Under the Banner of Heaven: The Story of a Violent Faith, which is a fascinating look at Mormon history and the disturbing undertones present today within many sects of the faith.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
According to the article,
...a full 61% [of Christians] believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%—a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America—agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.Wow, 61% is almost a majority. Proponents of this message are often called purveyors of what's called the 'prosperity gospel'.
Examples of preachers in our era who at least partially claim this credo include Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Creflo Dollar. It's a message that has its roots in the Pentecostal movement.
All evangelicals definitely do not agree with this theology. The 'money' quote finds Rick Warren correcting,
This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?Nicely put. Luke 6:20 says,
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.Jesus goes so far as to say in Matthew 19:23,
I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.What does this mean for our country? I have recently been reading a couple books--The Irresistable Revolution and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger--that argue we certainly will be held accountable. We live as and among the wealthiest people in the world. Does God want us to be this rich? It's a question we must ask ourselves.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Since I've begun this post, 1,087 people have been born and 442 have died. None that I've known. The Earth is brimming with constantly turbulent life. The site Breathing Earth displays it well. Blink, we're here, and blink, we're gone.
If this world was all there was, our hope would be for naught.
Monday, September 04, 2006
One of my most distinct memories of the Crocodile Hunter's TV show was when I and the group of friends who I had traveled to Florida with counted down to the Y2K New Year watching a Crocodile Hunter marathon.
Steve Irwin was 44. He is survived by his wife Terri and children Bindi Sue and Bob.
Monday, August 28, 2006
As the tournament has progressed, I've begun questioning more and more why there are rule differences between FIBA, which runs the world championships, and the sport I grew up playing here. Chris Sheridan at ESPN did a good job of breaking down many of the rules differences, but the major ones include a smaller ball size, a trapezoidal lane, a shorter court, and a shorter 3-point line. The question that kept resonating with me was why are there so many differences?
the international courtApparently I wasn't the only one. Last week, John Hollinger, he of the Pro Basketball Forecast, noted,
Another problem reared its head at the line, where the Americans made only 19-of-34.This has been a problem all tournament, and probably has to do with the slightly smaller ball used in FIBA play. It's not as much of a problem when the team is running and dunking, but just enough of a difference to throw them off on a finely calibrated maneuver like the free-throw stroke. (This also might be a good time for a rant on why, exactly, FIBA insists on using such different rules for a game that was invented and played here for half a century before anyone else picked it up. Can you imagine if the World Baseball Classic had used a different ball, changed the strike zone, and had the bases arranged in a trapezoid instead of a diamond?)
Indeed, John, exactly my thoughts and a fair query. And I haven't been able to find answers.
Wikipedia only notes a ball size change in 1935. How did the FIBA and NBA balls end up different? Is it an anti-USA move on FIBA's part? I wonder too, does the different ball size actually affect shooting? One would expect the difference to show up in other NBA-players on non-US teams (for outside shots and FT's). Or does the ball being smaller actually mean shots go in more easily (smaller ball to rim circumference ratio)? And most importantly, is there a movement afoot to standardize the rules?
the international ball in action
Unable to find an answer I was content with, I emailed the premier pro basketball blog in the world, TrueHoop, to see what I might be able to find out there. So now, finding my question posted there, we shall see if an answer is to be had. Where from have the differences arisen?
Friday, August 25, 2006
I'm proud to say that I'm in the top 50,000 but only barely. I wouldn't want to be too common.
The most common amongst the people I searched turned out to be my co-blogger Greg, who checked in within the top 1,000.
And as it turns out, I'm much more common than some of the others in the blogroll whose names, like my mother's maiden name, were not even in the top 55,000. I guess they have fewer relatives than the rest of us. (Not really.)
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Every evening I walk home after work from the el. Several of those evenings this summer, I have encountered a fellow walker going the opposite direction about my age. The only difference between he and I is that I'm coming from work and he's not. Oh, and that I am fully physically capable and it's obvious he is not anymore. He is out doing his best to make his way around the block unassisted. I am not sure what issues are afflicting him--my mind jumps to ALS--but the struggle to walk around the block he is enduring makes light of any so-called 'pains' I persevere through at work.
I recently was passed on an article that shares another person who makes the most of what he has been given.
Blind since age 3, Ben Underwood skateboards, shoots hoops and plays video games. How does he do it? Just like bats and dolphins.Ben is an inspiration. Here is a youngster who is able to make his way about without a cane, a dog, or any other assistance, and without the aid of sight. My cousin is also blind. He has been since a car accident at age 15. I am struck in his case, as seems to be Ben's case, at the tenacity and grit that have become second nature as he moves through the world as effortlessly as most of us do. Memorizing floor plans and hearing things we don't become habits.
Ben has learned to perceive and locate objects by making a steady stream ofSays an expert in the field,
sounds with his tongue, then listening for the echoes as they bounce off the
surfaces around him.
Ben pushes the limits of human perception.Says Ben,
I'm a normal kid.
Truly, an inspiration to us all.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Let me start out by saying that for any normal person, this memory would top their personal list of most embarrassing baseball blunders. But unfortunately I’m not normal and this one is only #2 for me. In fact, I began to have doubts that this event happened quite the way I remembered it. So I recently asked my dad, “Hey, do you remember when…” and he solemnly answered, “Yes.”
Sadly, this is the story of the time I was on the wrong side of a “sports miracle."
I was 10 years old, and it was the summer of 1990. At the time, I lived in southwestern
For instance, whenever I got my flattop trimmed, the assistant coach would remark, “I can’t get over how much you look like Chris Sabo.” Granted, Chris Sabo and I were both white, wore goggles, and had a flattop, but making the comparison once is enough. However, he kept bringing it up. In fact, toward the end of the season he was calling me “Chris” and my dad and I would have to keep correcting him.
Then there was our head coach. He was a big, tough guy with a thick (read “manly”) mullet and facial hair who loved watching the Reds (and I think he fantasized about being the fourth member of “The Nasty Boys.”) He and I got along just fine because, for some odd and unexpected reason, I reminded him of Tom Browning. You see, as the head coach explained to me time and time again, I was “left-handed” and “worked quickly on the mound,” so therefore I reminded him of Tom Browning. (After a while I quit contemplating this odd comparison and was just glad that he was letting me play both first base and pitcher.)
Speaking of pitching, at the tender age of ten I had already mastered three pitches. My bread and butter pitch was the meatball. But of course, to keep batters off balance I would sometimes switch to the meatball. And if I ever got into a really tight spot, then I’d dig deep into my bag of tricks and surprise them all with my meatball.
Okay, so I didn’t have great stuff, but I was pretty consistent at throwing strikes. In fact, probably a little too consistent considering my velocity wasn’t exactly overpowering. Overall, I was just an average little league pitcher—with one glaring exception...
It was the latter half of the season, and my team was in the middle of the pack in the standings. We were decent but probably not going to make much noise in the playoffs. However, on this sunny summer afternoon that all seemed to be changing, for we were playing our best ball of the season. We were playing against another one of those middle-of-the-pack teams and on this day we could do no wrong. It was one of those games where we’d score a few runs, then shut them out, score a few more runs, then shut them out, and so on. In our league we only played 6 innings and had all sorts of “mercy rules.” In the fifth inning of this game we had a 12-0 lead, so we were very close to the kill. That’s when our head coach decided to make a call to the bullpen for “Tom Browning.” So instead of heading out to first base, I took the mound; and I’m sure somewhere from the dugout the assistant coach hollered, “Go get ‘em, Chris!”
Now, despite the fact that this memory is 16 years old, I distinctly remember the thought floating through my mind as I warmed up on the mound, “There’s no way I can blow a 12-run lead.” But quickly I put that thought out of my mind because surely I could give up enough runs to let them back in the game and then I’d be removed. I didn’t want that to happen, so despite our huge lead, I had to take this seriously. Every pitch counted.
Starting out, things went okay. I mean, yeah, I gave up a few hits, a few walks, and we made a few errors. But two runs crossing the plate isn’t all that bad. Sure, there’s nobody out yet, but if I had gotten that called third strike instead of ball four, we’d be in good shape. Besides, we’re bound to get an out soon, maybe even a double play seeing as how the bases are loaded.
But the pattern continued. I was able to work most batters deep into the count, but whenever it came to the critical pitch, it always seemed to be ball 4, a hit, or an error. Eventually, the score narrowed to 12-7. Still bases loaded, nobody out, and the other team’s bench had more than come alive; it was now a full blown party with everyone on their feet, wearing their rally caps, and cheering. (And I’m sure at least one of the kids was hopping around and dancing like nobody was watching.) At this point, I remember pacing around the mound and knowing, right or wrong, my spirit was broken and I wanted out.
But the head coach didn’t make the move; and I was now frustrated beyond belief. From that point on I only remember four things:
#1) Somehow, some way we got an out and it gave me hope.
#2) Our shortstop booted a grounder and I glared at him for a long time.
#3) I blew the entire lead before finally getting the hook.
#4) We lost the game.
I don’t remember anything that happened directly after the game, except to say that it’s kind of like when one of your relatives abandons his wife and three kids to run off with his gay lover. Nobody in the family talks about it.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
The ramifications on our lives of this new societal placement are many. A common refrain of those less than thrilled about urban life is that this new settlement pattern is bad for the earth. As it turns out, this is really not the case. Many of today's most ardent environmentalists recognize that a city designed for sustainability offers the best opportunity for us to most sustainably populate the world. The best way to help our planet may be urban living. Of course, this is only if it's done correctly.
So what can be done to make a city sustainable? It's an important goal as currently cities comprise a mere 2 per cent of the Earth's land, but use up seventy-five per cent of its resources. What is good, though, is that the size of cities create inherent economies of scale that make living on less natural. First steps include reducing the need for cars and creating spaces for urban agriculture. Smart urban planning is needed to ensure vibrant communities centered on good transit options, with space for all socioeconomic groups to find a corner.
As the future becomes now, will urbanization result in more slums and poor educational systems; or will the world's resources be managed more efficiently in bringing a good life to the masses?
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
If it were true.
I'm curious, though, how many of you have heard this? What is your impression of the current safety of milk? Has it been influenced by statements that trickle down from the fearmongering media like these?
Folks, I'm here to tell you the concern over hormones is all a myth. An example of how grassroots misinformation spreads like wildfire. What's the real story here?
Milk, a wholesome way to get many of our daily essential vitamins, does contain hormones. They're naturally occurring. Always have been there. The hormone in question with these issues is rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) or BGH (bovine growth hormone). Cows naturally make BGH, which causes them to produce milk. Lo and behold, scientists discovered that if cows are given more BGH, they produce more milk. While this may marginally affect the health of the cow, it does NOT affect the milk. The milk produced still has IGF1 (insulin growth factor), which is produced via BGH in the cow, in the same proportion as a normal cow. Thus, the milk is as good to drink as any milk. The concern had come when certain people claimed that the hormone levels were also elevated in milk. They said it caused an increased risk for some cancers, particularly colon and breast cancers, as well as premature puberty in females. Studies seemed to back it up. However, a closer look at the variables in the latter study seems to show that early puberty is much better predicted by obesity. The other data did show that an elevated level of IGF1 in blood may be linked to cancer, but there was not any correlation with milk as the source for it. A good rundown of the rBST issue can be found here.
Therefore, milk is safe to drink. I have seen absolutely no study that causes me to think otherwise. But alas, the grassroots rumors continue to spread. I have talked to many friends, especially girls, who have heard from their friends (who heard from their friends who read scary articles) that we should not give our kids milk, that they shouldn't drink milk while pregnant, and that in general milk was dangerous.
Unfortunately, the story spreads, true or not.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Well, Warren Buffett is giving away 85% of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on world health -- fighting such diseases as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis -- and on improving U.S. libraries and high schools.
His gift is an estimated $37 billion dollars today. The Foundation was previously worth about $30 billion. With the combined assets now available, can you imagine the impact it's going to have? It's worth imagining.
If the Foundation spends $3 billion per year as planned, it works out to roughly $1 per person if you consider only the poor half of the world's population. Is that enough for the it to make a huge difference? It very well might be.
I'm left wondering, though, what sort of statement does it make that one of the world's most successful capitalists chooses to give it all away?
*Edit (8-13-06): The NYT has an interesting article looking at how the Gates Foundation will give away all the money donated by Buffett. It certainly will be fascinating to see what new endeavors they are able to embark on.
Monday, July 31, 2006
We have become accustomed to imagining life as an almost 100-year journey. Five for Fighting recently based a hit song that I liked on that concept. What most of us don't realize, however, is what a recent phenomenon that mark of longevity is. Throughout almost all of recorded history, humans did not live long lives. Living long enough to procreate was a success. Life expectancy in ancient Greece was 28 years. In classical Rome, also 28. In medieval England, it was 33 years.
The NYT had an interesting article running these concepts down in Sunday's paper. They note,
New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled.Humans have exhibited multiple changes, most only occurring in the last 100 years. As aforementioned, not only are humans getting bigger and taller and smarter (literally), but,
The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to.Recent research shows that, often beginning in people's 20's,
...almost everyone of the Civil War generation was plagued by life-sapping illnesses, suffering for decades.The real intriguing part of the article begins to look at what has caused this remarkable change in human development. As it turns out, some scientists now suspect that your longevity and health are largely determined by what occurs while you're in the womb and before age two. Dr. David J. P. Barker, who formulated the theory, says
...data that he and others have been gathering have convinced him that health in middle age can be determined in fetal life and in the first two years after birth.Truly interesting, I think.
Monday, July 17, 2006
a 17-year-old theory that the sanitized Western world may be partly to blame for soaring rates of human allergy and asthma cases and some autoimmune diseases... The theory figures that people's immune systems aren't being challenged by disease and dirt early in life, so the body's natural defenses overreact to small irritants such as pollen.It's one of two main theories as to the the growth of allergies in our modern world; the other being the prevalence of everyday chemicals.
Recent research has, however, bolstered the case for the validity of the hygiene hypothesis. The study showed that certain rats have better, more effective immune systems. Which would you think it is: dirty sewer rats or clean raised-in-a-pristine-lab rats? Yep, you guessed it, the sewer rats.
...the wild mice and rats had as much as four times higher levels of immunoglobulins, yet weren't sick, showing an immune system tuned to fight crucial germs, but not minor irritants.Human studies have also long given credence to the hygiene theory, showing that allergy and asthma rates are higher in cleaner industrialized areas. So the lesson is, make sure you let kids play in the mud and eat dirt, play with animals, and most of all, don't overuse antibacterial soap on them. Strategically expose your kids to that which will make them dirty in order that they end up healthy.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Except for this one.
Yes, it’s true. This one isn’t all that funny, and I’d like to avoid it. In fact, I’ve racked my brain trying to think of a replacement, but I can’t. If my list of top five baseball blunders is going to have any integrity, this one has to be on it.
I was older--probably 14, maybe even 15 years old. My own baseball career was winding down at that point and I had started to watch a lot of my younger sister’s softball games. I actually quite enjoyed them.
Anyway, at one point in the season the team’s manager asked me to be the third base coach. At first I was a little surprised (and wondered how the dad coaching first base felt about a teenager getting to coach the "important" base), but I gladly accepted. At that point in my life, it was the highest ranking position with the most responsibility that I had held.
As it turned out, I was a natural for the position. As a lifelong baseball player and astute observer of my sister’s softball team, I already had the strategic nuances of a third base coach down pat. And I must have done all right that first game because the manager kept calling me back game after game. Pretty soon it was obvious to me that I was first string third base coach. Nobody would head for third or home without my consent. Now that’s power.
Keep in mind, this softball team was mainly a bunch of 11-year old girls. At that age, they’re looking for guidance, someone to look up to and trust. My sister was fairly popular on the team too, so that made my job even easier. These girls weren’t just going to listen to me, they were going to gladly listen to me.
And this team was good. We won most of our games and definitely had hopes of contending for the championship. Toward the end of the regular season, though, we found ourselves in a tight game. Down by a run in the last inning. I forget how many outs, probably one or zero. Our best player was on first base, representing the tying run. I had butterflies.
A line shot went into right field, and my gut told me that our best player would be able to score from first on the hit. My job was to make sure that when she started rounding second she saw and heard a wild man waving her home to make sure that she would sprint the whole way.
However, after she was about halfway to third, I noticed that the outfielder had picked up the ball and the throw looked “not half bad.” In fact, it looked like the outfielder was indeed going to hit the cutoff. My brain immediately told me to abort the mission and have my runner hold at third.
And if it had been my first day as third base coach, I would have done exactly that. But now I not only considered myself an expert, I was part of the team. This was personal, and I was actively going to make a difference. Besides, I had already been screaming and signaling that she could take home, so for me to now tell her to hold at third would be to admit a mistake.
In my moment of indecision, I glanced at her eyes; they were intent on third base and dreaming of home. She was our best player and wanted to win, hungry to score the tying run. Her eyes were determined. Of course, she had no idea where the ball was at—she was trusting me.
Not missing a beat, I kept waving and hollering. She rounded third...
When I looked back up for the ball, I saw the second basemen wheeling to make the throw from the edge of the grass. In my mind, there was no way that there could be two quality throws in a row. Besides, the second basemen tends to be the worst of the infielders. It just seemed the odds were on our side…
Then the throw came… straight to the catcher’s mitt. It beat my runner by at least 20 feet. She definitely had time to turn around and at least force a pickle, but I think she was too stunned. She should have felt betrayed by me, but more likely her young, impressionable mind somehow thought it was her own fault. Perhaps she blamed herself for not obeying my command to magically score the tying run. This is the only thing I can come up with as to why she didn’t turn around and create a pickle or just stop dead in her tracks and point back at me saying, “You set me up!” Instead, she just kept going.
Well, there was a play at the plate all right. The catcher extended her glove to make the tag, and our best player made her best effort to hurdle the glove. In the process she managed to smack into just about every piece of hard plastic equipment the catcher was wearing.
The catcher hung onto the ball, and not only was our runner called out, she didn’t get up right away. Her dad and our manager both went out to see her as the tears flowed and the dust settled at home plate, but I stayed at third base looking for a very deep hole to crawl into.
The catcher hung onto the ball, and not only was our runner called out, she didn’t get up right away. Her dad and our manager both went out to see her as the tears flowed and the dust settled at home plate, but I stayed at third base looking for a very deep hole to crawl into.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Known as the Big Dig, the project buried Boston’s central highway underground. However, it has been plagued by reports of multiple leaks and problems with slurry walls, cost overruns to reach its final cost of $14.6 billion, and other problems.
Now trouble has struck again. In horrifying news,
...concrete ceiling panels in the tunnel crashed down late Monday night, crushing a car and killing a 38-year-old woman inside. Her husband barely escaped by crawling through a window.
The question is, was it worth it?
Sunday, July 09, 2006
It might seem like an absurd question at first, but think about it. If you type "cool" into dictionary.com, these are the top five definitions that pop up:
- Neither warm nor very cold; moderately cold: fresh, cool water; a cool autumn evening.
- Giving or suggesting relief from heat: a cool breeze; a cool blouse.
- Marked by calm self-control: a cool negotiator.
- Marked by indifference, disdain, or dislike; unfriendly or unresponsive: a cool greeting; was cool to the idea of higher taxes.
- Of, relating to, or characteristic of colors, such as blue and green, that produce the impression of coolness.
An msnbc.com article references the 1997 book "America In So Many Words," which traces the modern slang usage of "cool" all the way back to 1947 when the Charlie Parker Quartet recorded “Cool Blues.”
A year later, Life magazine titled an article “Bebop: New Jazz School Is Led by Trumpeter Who Is Hot, Cool and Gone.” And in 1948, The New Yorker said “the bebop people have a language of their own. ... Their expressions of approval include ‘cool.”’And "cool" doesn't seem to be losing steam, either. It's still the bee's knees, and if anything, the word is as hot as ever.
Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California at Berkeley, says the word should have faded away at the end of the ’50s. Instead, it was adopted and redefined by hippies, followed by surfers, rappers and techno-geeks. “Click here for cool stuff,” Web sites say.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
If you think that’s the day the Continental Congress declared independence from Britain, sorry.Nope, that was voted on and passed on July 2, 1776. In fact, shortly after that vote, John Adams predicted in a letter to his wife Abigail that,
“the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”Boy was he wrong. But hey, what did he know, he was only there.
Perhaps you think July 4 was the day the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.Wrong again! That didn't occur until a month later on August 2, 1776. The final clean copy of the actual Declaration of Independence had to be prepared for the signees to sign.
So what did happen on July 4 then?
Well, it was the date the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was accepted. And of course, since it was that day, that's the date written on the Declaration itself.
So now you know, the rest of the story.
Oh, by the way, and if you want to know the answer to last year's trivia, go look.